Saturday, February 20, 2016
My JASNA Debut
So, my friends, on Tuesday the 9th I went to my first meeting with the Jane Austen Society of North America. That's what this post will be about, but first a little backstory.
When I was first hired at my current library job, on the second day at work, I made the comment to my supervisor (her name is Jennifer) that "I liked this movie" (because I came across Emma 2009 and it made me smile). She said she did too and that she loved Jane Austen, and my response was "I KNEW I LIKED YOU!!!"
And then I was kind of embarrassed because, you know, she's my boss. I probably shouldn't be too weirdly enthusiastic right at the beginning. She just laughed, though, and we went on talking. She mentioned that she was a member of JASNA. I was highly interested and we had a bit of a discussion about it... I mentioned that it's hard for me to get to the book clubs or meetings because of where I live not being close by and the locations being tricky to drive in, and she made a vague offer to take me with her sometime.
This was back in August. Now in February, I finally brought it up again, saying I didn't know where the meeting place was (like, I didn't know how to get there), and she immediately offered a ride with her, and very kindly helped to rearrange my work hours (as I was supposed to be working 3-8) so that she could drive me from the library to the meeting spot.
Now, you may not be aware of this-- I at least was not until a couple of years ago-- but the majority and even stereotype of most Jane Austen fans are in their fifties and sixties, with each decade below getting less populated. Especially when we're talking about Actual Book Knowledgeable and Society ones. (Gals, if you get the chance, I strongly encourage you to join and go to meetings in your area-- let's show them that this generation has smart people too! ;))
Anyway. Not surprisingly I was the youngest member there. The one closest in age to me was probably... between 25 and 35? I'm really bad at guessing ages; and the next up was I think Jennifer. (It was awfully nice to have someone to go with, by the way. It is an introvert's preference. Jennifer is also an introvert, which she informed me of slightly after she hired me. Like I said-- I knew I liked her.)
I tried not to let the age gap deter me, though. The wonderful thing about sharing a love of Jane Austen is that it can bring people of all different ages and backgrounds together and, cheesy as it may sound, sort of in unity. There were treats in the back along with a selection of tea-- I said I knew I was in the right place since they actually offered tea. In AMERICA, mind you, where there is an absolutely shocking lack of tea at social gatherings.
After looking at the collection I picked out Constant Comment, glanced at the slightly quiet group (we were quite a bit early) and decided to go for it. To a lady coming to fetch tea for herself, I said "My friend and I call this Miss Bates Tea." I discovered that she couldn't read it without her glasses which was rather a disappointment, but it was all well because then I said "it's called Constant Comment..."
"Oh!" said she, and laughed obligingly. Someone in the back row who had heard it laughed and shared it with everyone else in the room, who laughed as well. Small moment of triumph. ;)
The key speaker that evening was a woman who had gone with her best friend to England for the Jane Austen Festival in Bath. As you can guess, it was fascinating. She showed us a slideshow with lots of pictures and... ahh.
She did seem to be more of a fan of FakeP&P, though, which was slightly disappointing, since she got to visit other places in England too. (This wasn't actually a JASNA member, by-the-by. It's a lady who has a travel blog.) In fact she talked about Lacock, and said some period dramas were filmed there... one of the Pride and Prejudices or something.
One of the ladies in the crowd asked if it was Meryton, and she was like, I don't know; I said "yes, it was Meryton" from across the aisle. "And it was Cranford." I don't mean to be a know-it-all or anything, but... well. I know things. Hahaha.
I was not entirely silent the whole time you see... but that's because the minute I am in a room full of people who are all talking about Jane Austen, what little bit of extrovert I have in me is switched on. Well, it doesn't just switch on... it sort of powers up. So after the news about Bath I talked with Jennifer, the 20ish-30ish-something woman who also works at a library, and a lady Jennifer knows who used to be in the same position SHE'S now in at our library.
This lady (her name was Susanne or something similar) had some fascinating things to say. She has been to the Annual General Meeting, she's been to the Jane Austen Festival (she said privately to us afterwards that the Festival, although fun, is very strongly commercialism, hahaha, and that most of the cool things you see there are in abundance at the AGM anyway), she's been on a JASNA Jane Austen tour (it only takes about a dozen people every year... not to be crass, but this woman must have some money :P), and oh, it was delicious.
She walked out with Jennifer and me and we stood by Jennifer's car for a long time talking. Susanne did most of the talking, but I was definitely second-- which Jennifer seemed to encourage since she thought we'd enjoy each other's company. In the midst of the conversation, the one who was telling us about Bath came out (she was wearing this skirt, by the way-- is that adorable or what?!) and we were thanking her for coming.
She turned to me and said "You seemed to be very knowledgable. Have you ever been there?"
"Been where? Bath? England? Goodness, no."
"Well you should go!"
"Well, I would LOVE to, believe me. Someday. It will happen someday."
But I felt awfully flattered that someone actually thought it possible that I could have gone there from just hearing me say a few things. Noooope, I'm just a nerdy Janeite, actually, and have done a lot of research in my time. :P
Anyway. It was getting very cold outside and although I was thoroughly enjoying talking to Susanne, I felt frozen stiff. Finally we said our goodbyes (after oh so many topics!) and she said she was glad I'd joined and hope to see me again. Everyone was very welcoming, really. I liked it a lot. :D
Jennifer and I got in the car and I was like BRRRRR, haha.
"Sooo, did you like it?" Jennifer asked teasingly as we drove away.
"Oh, no, it was awful. I hated it. I wanted to go home the whole time. Couldn't you tell?"
"Yeah, I was kind of getting that vibe from you." (She of course appreciates ironic humor. I knew I lik-- ahemshuttingup.)
And after that I kept on talking. It's not as if I didn't let her talk; she talked too. But I nattered on about The P&P95Forever Club (she prefers that version too; she said there are a few in the group who adamantly prefer the Kiera Knightley version, and after a moment of silence, I managed to say, well, I suppose to each their own. Magnanimous of me, wasn't it? :P) and period drama, Cranford, Julia Sawalha, Lark Rise to Candleford, old BBC period drama and how slow and boring ("how they made Emma boring, I hardly know!"), how Mrs. Gardiner plays Elinor in the oldest BBC S&S adaptation, how Georgiana is actually her daughter in real life, how there are so many adaptations of Jane Eyre but none of them hit the mark for me.
Besides for her keeping up her end of the conversation I basically talked nonstop. When we pulled into the library parking lot where I was still talking, so I finished my sentence and paused slightly. "Um, okay. Sorry about that." (She assured me that I "was fine, no worries!") I added that people think I'm quiet, obviously they don't know me, and thanked her profusely for taking me along. She seemed to be very amused.
I got back into my car and thought to myself, wow, I wonder if she'll even recognize me at work tomorrow. :P (Obviously I'm not silent at work, but I am never that... comfortably animated.)
But when I get together and talk about Jane Austen, etc.... it's really like I'm an extrovert for a while. I feel happy and energized afterwards. I feel like I'm friends with the whole world.
We'll see if this lasts if I test it over a few days in a row, because I really, really, REALLY want to go to the AGM this year. Like, a lot. It seems almost impossible that I would actually do something that BIG, but... seriously, why not now? Is there going to be a better time? Probably not. Things are never exactly convenient; you just have to put a priority on the things you really want to do. If there's one thing I've learned, it's that you don't try to make things happen, they don't.
I have some other exciting things coming up in my life, too... I'll tell you about all that soon. Probably in a post where I basically ramble about everything I might want to do in life. Well, maybe I'd better confine it to the next ten years or something, because that's going to be a long post.
Your Nonsensical Janeite Friend